Digital TV standards: The truth behind it

The Director General of Communications, Mamodupi Mohlala, said last week that South Africa hasn’t decided on a digital terrestrial television (DTT) standard according to TechCentral.

Sparking confusion and anger with local broadcasters, she called for all available standards, including the Japanese and Brazillian Integrated Services Digital Broadcasting – Terrestrial (ISDB-T) standards, to be investigated for South Africa’s digital broadcasting needs.

At a demo of M-Net and’s DVB-T broadcasting capabilities the CEO of M-Net, Patricia Scholtemeyer, said “the standard was approved by Cabinet, implemented in policy and confirmed in regulation.” The spokespeople at the event emphasised that DVB-T had officially been selected as the standard for DTT in South Africa by 2008 after a lengthy process that began in 2002.

Karen Willenberg, M-Net’s Director of Regulatory and Legal Affairs, presented M-Net and’s answers to the claims being made about DVB-T, DVB-T2 and ISDB-T.

Statement M-Net and’s answer
The DVB-T standard is problematic/obsolete/deficient. DVB-T is the most widely adopted DTT system in the world, with more than 150 million receivers sold in more than 40 countries.

DVB-T has been trialled in SA for 2 years and it works.

DVB-T2 is a new standard which was created because of problems with DVB-T1. DVB-T2 isn’t a new standard.

It’s an upgraded version of DVB-T, developed by the DVB group for better spectrum efficiency.

The adoption of ISDB-T will benefit local manufacturers While there may be short-term gains, adopting ISDB not sustainable in the long term.

It will prejudice the local manufacturing industry, because the market for set-top boxes (STBs) produced in South Africa will forever be restricted to those few countries which have adopted ISDB.

ISDB-T is an open source standard and DVB-T isn’t DVB and ISDB are subject to the same patents, royalties and IP restrictions. In particular, royalty payments for OFDM (the basic modulation system) and MPEG 2 and/or MPEG 4, the compression system.
ISDB technology is superior The technical differences between ISDB-T and DVB-T are marginal.

However, DVB-T2 is a far superior standard.  E.g. DVB-T2 delivers 50% more channels.

There is a shortage of DVB-T set-top boxes (STBs) Due to delays beyond the control of broadcasters, mass production of STBs never began. Shortage of STBs was never an issue.
Switching to ISDB-T would incure minimal costs. Digital transmitters would simply need to be reconfigured. Such a switch would require 8MHz ISDB-T transmitter equipment and STBs to be developed specifically for SA.

An additional R2.2 billion in government subsidies would be required.

Switching to DVB-T2 would incure minimal costs. Digital transmitters would simply need to be reconfigured. Moving from DVB-T to DVB-T2 requires that the SANS 862 spec for STBs be amended (not rewritten). This would take 3-4 months.

Existing skills and equipment can be used.

Existing frequency plan need not be changed.

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Digital TV standards: The truth behind it